Niesenbaum gets back to state championships
Jonah Niesenbaum is a student of the game when it comes to wrestling.
The Salisbury senior has proved time and again he is a quick learner.
After punching his ticket to states for the second straight year, Niesenbaum showed that he’s still just scratching the surface.
A third-place finish Saturday at the Southeast Regional Tournament helped Niesenbaum secure his spot in Hershey for the second year in a row. The result was an improvement on his fifth-place finish at regionals a season ago.
It is quite an accomplishment for someone that only started wrestling as a sophomore in high school.
“This time of year, and this happened last year, where certain things just started to click,” Niesenbaum said. “At districts, there were some issues, and throughout the season there have been some issues. We’ve been talking about them, reviewing them.
“This weekend, I really started to see all the things we’ve been practicing come to fruition.”
The third-place result at regionals matched his finish from the previous week at districts.
Niesenbaum pinned Susquenita’s Slade Figard in 1:51 in his opening round match at 220 pounds on Friday night. Despite a 7-6 loss to Newport’s Ethan Rode in the quarters, Niesenbaum bounced back, winning three straight consolation matches.
“My second match against Rode was tough,” Niesenbaum said. “I was the aggressor for most of that, but he was able to get a throw, and get some back points, and unfortunately he was able to win by one.”
He didn’t let the loss linger, posting back-to-back pins of Lower Moreland’s Patt Whittle (4:45) and Dylan Dewitt (1:16) in the consolation bracket before earning a 7-1 decision over Bishop McDevitt’s Tyrone Fowler.
A rematch with Rode in the third-place bout was cut short, with Niesenbaum winning by injury default at 1:58.
“I know it wasn’t the way I wanted to win, but I was going to win that match either way,” Niesenbaum said.
Niesenbaum’s rapid growth has only been accelerated in the postseason.
“It’s so nice when I get to wrestle consistently at a higher level, because it’s easier to develop a style,” said Niesenbaum, who will continue his wrestling career at Duke University. “It was a lot of fun this weekend. Obviously I wanted first, but I had a ton of fun because I was able to go out against some pretty solid competitors, and just really work good moves, and I know that they’re going to work against high level guys at states.
“I just think that if I can make the improvements from districts to regionals, and then regionals to states, there’s going to be a lot of fun things to come. You learn so much this time of year because you’re seeing higher skill levels in matches more consistently. But also during the week, we’re not just focused on conditioning, we’re not just focused on hard drilling, but we really review our matches. We tweak things, and we really take the time to fix every little thing. So this is the time of the year, at least for me, where I make huge improvements.”
Niesenbaum’s ability to adapt and adjust is apparent each time he steps on the mat.
“That’s the pleasure of it,” said Falcons’ coach Juan Garcia. “We’ll go over what we need to fix, and within a day, it’s there. I think the competition that he’s beating is a lot better. I think he’s definitely leaps and bounds ahead of where he was last year. Last year was more of a surprise. We had an expectation, but it was a surprise, and it was great.
“This year, we expect to be on the podium next week, where it’s not a surprise. We expect to make it. That’s what we worked for. Going into the postseason last year, he had a losing record, but it didn’t faze him at all.”
Neither did losing both of his matches at states a year ago.
“Next week, we know there’s not going to be an easy match,” said Garcia. “There are no easy matches. We’re just going to take it one match a time, keep our focus on the first-round match, the second-round match, and so on and so forth.
“There are obviously things we have to work on, but we’re pretty confident with where he’s at right now.”
“I’m really excited,” said Niesenbaum. “I have a lot of faith in my coaches, and if anything needs to be fixed, they’re going to tell me, and we’ll work on it, and I know I’ll be well-prepared.”